17th Annual National Farmworker Awareness Week

Washington, DC Each year, it is estimated that over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to farms, forests, lawns, parks and golf courses in the United States.

With eighty percent of all U.S. pesticide use being in agriculture, farmworkers who pick the fruits and vegetables that end up on tables across America are exposed more than anyone else to the health hazards of pesticides. Annually, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000–20,000 doctor diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur among the approximate 2 million U.S. agricultural workers. Pesticide applicators, farmers, farm workers, and communities near farms are often most at risk.

“Over 90% of all pesticide exposures are through the skin and may result in increased rates of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, various cancers and birth defects, among others” says Melanie Forti, Director, Health & Safety Programs at the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP).  Forti continues, “as simple as it sounds, a long sleeve shirt can help mitigate a farm worker’s skin from pesticide exposure, and help prevent heat-related illnesses.”

During National Farmworker Awareness Week, AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs is sponsoring its Third Annual National Long Sleeve Shirt Drive, March 26–April 2. The goal is to collect over 2,000 long sleeve shirts nationwide. (During the 2015 National Farmworker Awareness Week, 7,505 new and gently used shirts were donated.)  This year, nineteen states, including Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. are participating in this campaign.

To help protect farmworker health, long sleeve shirts will be distributed to workers at pesticide safety and heat stress prevention trainings conducted by AFOP’s Health & Safety trainers throughout the coming year.

There is always a need and plenty of ways to get involved. To find out more about farm workers and some of the health issues they face while working in the fields, or to find a long sleeve donation location, please visit www.afop.org.

“Individuals come together to help one another and by doing so realize they have more commonalities than differences creating stronger ties and healthier communities; ultimately equality is what we’re promoting” states Vashti Kelly, Program Manager, Health & Safety Programs at AFOP.

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is a non-profit, national federation of 52 non-profit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farm workers. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all farmworkers and their families through advocacy, education, and training. For additional comment or an interview, please contact Melanie Forti, Director of Health & Safety Programs at 202.828-6006 ext. 107 or forti@afop.org .

Contact:  Amber James
Tel. 202.384.1767
Email: james@afop.org